Woman completes 16km run at East Coast beach to raise awareness for sexual assault victims

SINGAPORE - Despite an intermittent drizzle, about 30 people turned up at East Coast Park on Saturday morning (March 4) for a run in support of sexual assualt survivors.

They were led by Ms Claire McFarlane, 38, who completed about 16km, mostly on the beach, as part of her global campaign Footsteps To Inspire.

The project - said to be the first of its kind - will see her running a total of 3000km on the beaches across 184 countries to raise awareness for victims of sexual assault.

She started in 2016, on July 18, and Singapore is her 13th country.

The run kicked off at about 7.50 am along the shores of East Coast Park's Angsana Green.

Participants first ran about 2.5km towards the National Sailing Centre and back, before running towards Big Splash and back again to complete the entire course. Some ran or walked distances varying 5km to 10km.

They comprise regular runners from local body image movement Rock The Naked Truth, who helped to organise the event, as well as the public.

Ms Ridhima Jain, 31, completed 5km in support of the cause, though she did not run often.

"I feel passionately for this issue because such cases are common where I am from, and not many people stand up to talk about it," said the Indian national, who has been living in Singapore for about a year. "I knew I had to be here and nothing, not even the rain, would stop me."

Ms McFarlane finished the run at about 10am.

Ms Claire McFarlane (second from right) running along East Coast beach on Saturday (March 4).  ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Before the event started, Ms McFarlane, who holds both South African and Australian citizenships, shared with participants that the 16km route symbolised her 16-year ordeal in bringing her rapist to justice.

In 1999, Ms McFarlane was brutally raped on the streets of Paris, France, when she was 21. The police did not catch her rapist until 10 years later. He was convicted in 2011, but only served about four years of a 12-year jail sentence, and her civil suit ended unsuccessfully in October 2015.

"It was a really difficult time of my life and I turned to running - it just sort of happened spontaneously - and it helped me heal," she said. "The 16km represents the length of my story, from when I was attacked to when I had final closure."

She added that in the countries she visit, she will be running barefoot on the sand as far as possible, as it was also way she had coped then.

She will also link up with key services and organisations in each country that help survivors of sexual violence.

Also present to lend their support on Saturday (March 4) was the Australian High Commissioner to Singapore Bruce Gosper and his wife, Mrs Margaret Gosper, who are friends of Ms McFarlane, as well as Ms Corrina Lim, executive director of the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware).

Ms McFarlane's campaign will take about four years to complete. On Monday, she leaves Singapore for the Philippines.

•Survivors of sexual violence can call Aware's SACC on 6779-0282.

•Those who want to donate to Ms McFarlane's campaign can do so here: https://www.chuffed.org/project/footstepstoinspire-singapore